Know your Status: World Health Organisation calls for use of self tests for HIV on AIDS Day

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December 1 marks the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day and this year the theme is “Know Your Status”.

With one in four people with HIV don’t know that they have HIV, the WHO is for bridging some critical gaps in the availability of HIV tests, a release said.

WHO recommends the use of self-tests for HIV, which it had already recommended two years ago. Now more than 50 countries have developed policies on self-testing. WHO, working with international organizations such as Unitaid and others, supported the largest HIV self-testing programmes in six countries in southern Africa. This programme is reaching people who have not tested themselves before, and is linking them to either treatment or prevention services.

This World AIDS Day, WHO and the International Labour Organization will also announce new guidance to support companies and organizations to offer HIV self-tests in workplace, it said.   

“30 years after the first World AIDS Day campaign, we still cannot be complacent in our response to HIV,” says Dr Gottfried Hirnschall, Director of the HIV department at WHO. 

In 2017, 1.8 million people were newly infected with HIV. While the world has committed to ending AIDS by 2030, rates of new infections and deaths are not falling rapidly enough to meet that target. HIV continues to disproportionately affect adolescents and young people in many countries. About a third of new HIV infections are in people aged 15-25 years. In almost all countries where HIV affects many groups, young women aged 15–24 years are three to five times more likely than their male counterparts to have HIV. In sub-Saharan Africa, 71% of new infections are in adolescents.

As the world’s population of adolescents grows, particularly in East and southern Africa, high incidence among young people will equate to rises in the absolute numbers of new infections. Efforts to address this problem must tackle structural issues, such as keeping girls in school, and prevention of gender-based violence alongside greater access to sexual and reproductive health services, the WHO said.

One of the biggest challenges in the HIV response has remained unchanged for 30 years: HIV disproportionally affects people in vulnerable populations that are often highly marginalized and stigmatized, te world organisation said. Thus, most new HIV infections and deaths are seen in places where certain higher-risk groups remain unaware, underserved or neglected. About 75% of new HIV infections outside sub-Saharan Africa are in men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, people in prisons, sex workers, or transgender people, or the sexual partners of these individuals. These are groups who are often discriminated against and excluded from health services. 

Since the beginning of the epidemic, more than 70 million people heave acquired the infection, and about 35 million people have died. Today, around 37 million worldwide live with HIV, of whom 22 million are on treatment.

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